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Breast Cancer Screening: Adapting Practice to the Update


A provincial breast cancer screening clinical practice guideline committee has recently made some impactful changes to the clinical practice guidelines for Alberta. Under the new guidelines the age to commence routine screening has been reduced from 50 years to 45. As primary care nurses, there is a lot we can do to support this change in practice.


1. Understand the rationale for breast cancer screening. The Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Clinical Practice Guideline 2022 Update provides extensive information on the rationale for breast cancer screening along with the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Reviewing this information will provide the primary care nurse with the necessary information to be able to support their patients and explain the new guidelines.


2. Assist with patient recall.

Women aged 45-49 are now recommended for routine digital mammography and may be unaware. Speaking with the physicians in your clinic and assisting with patient recall can help to increase the preventative screening rates in your clinic and provide your patients with the routine care they are recommended for.


3. Utilize opportunistic screening.

Primary care nurses see patients for a multitude of reasons both related and unrelated to routine screening. Every patient interaction is an opportunity for opportunistic screening. Modifiable risk factors such as physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking and nutrition all have an impact on cancer risk.


As primary care nurses we are well positioned to support our patients in their medical home during the transition to these new guidelines, which should result in earlier detection of breast cancer for people assigned female at birth. To aid in these conversations and support the key messages please also review the Making an Informed Decision About Breast Cancer Screening: For Women 45 and Older document. This document provides detailed information on the benefits and risks associated with breast cancer screening, and supplies tables and tools that can be used during patient encounters.


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